Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I love holding Presenter Workshops. Not only because it means I get to talk endlessly for hour upon hour (!), but also because so many new and different comments and questions come up over the duration of one day events like these. Questions that get me thinking in a new way and make me look at a common problem from a different angle (see, it’s all about ME)!!

At our most recent Workshop in Dublin, one of these questions came up.
It was a beauty and gets right to the heart of the reality of being on air:
“Why does radio pay so badly”?
Isn’t that brilliant?
Where’s all the money and how come we’re not getting our fair share of it?
Sometimes, when you are asked a question, you just have to answer it with your gut, as honestly as you know.
My honest, gut level answer was: “Because we let them pay us badly”.

OK, let me expand on that one a little bit.
You’re possibly thinking, “But it’s not up to us how much we get paid, is it”?
Well, I think it is…to a degree.

Let me put it to you this way.
If you go for a job in McDonalds, the pay is set out before you. There is no haggling about salary or perks. This is the money, take it or leave it.
If you go for a job as a receptionist or secretary, generally the salary is already stated. How many job ads have you seen that say, “Salary starts at 24K and rises to 32K after three years”?
You know where you stand immediately.
Radio jobs don’t do this.
You will never get a preview of the available salary. It’s just not advertised. So how do you know what to ask for? How do you know what the management have in mind? How far will they go?

I believe that in order to make the standard of pay rise for you in your radio career, you have to be professional about it.
Unfortunately it’s been beaten into us over the years by the people who run radio and pretty much everyone associated with radio, that we Radio Presenters are the lowest people working at the station.
What do we do? We play a few songs, talk a little bit and go home. How difficult is that? Anyone could do it.
I’m sure in the past; you’ve been told that you have it ‘easy’. A nice cushy gig. Three hours a day?? That’s not work, is it?
Well, if we’re told something enough times, it eventually sinks in. If the same message is repeated often enough, it tends to become fact. After a while, we start to wonder if maybe we do in fact have it easy.
I’m here to tell you that you don’t.
I’m here to tell you that, not only do you not have it easy; you actually have the most difficult and most important job at your radio station.
Without you, the radio station has no personality, it has no soul, and it has no distinctive voice.
Without you, the radio station cannot communicate properly.

Being a Radio Presenter is not just a job or a 'gig'. It is a profession.
Like any other profession, you are automatically a Professional. There can be no debating this one in your mind.
We all, at one stage or another, have ‘landed’ ourselves a gig and though “brilliant, I’m on the radio”.
Once on the radio, we will do anything to stay on the radio.
The GM or CEO could decide that they are going to cut our salary in half due to “Budget restraints”. No problem, we’ll take less money because we are ‘on the radio’.
We’re delighted with ourselves. We’ve got a gig. Thank you so much. Thank you, thank you thank you.
Is that behaving in a Professional manner?
I don’t believe so.

What is then?
To me, behaving in a Professional manner as a Radio Presenter (note the capital letters there) involves carrying yourself in a Professional way and being a real Pro.
Part of that means not fighting with the other guy for scraps. Not allowing your ability to be undermined.
Asking for what you believe you are worth.
If you go into a PD’s office with a salary request, the first thing he/she will do is laugh it off. That’s their job. The PD, though, is willing to play the game.
The game being, you aim high, they aim low and you will eventually meet somewhere in the middle.
If they won’t budge at all, then you can ask yourself, do you really want to work in a building where your talent and ability is not recognised?
How does it feel when you are undervalued? That’s basically what is happening to you when you get less money than you are looking for. You feel undervalued.
The sales rep that started work in the station six months after you is now driving around in a new BMW, while you are still there battling away for pennies.
Good for the Sales Rep (well done), but not a nice feeling for you.

How does the sales rep get to that stage?
By bringing in the money. Money talks. GMs and CEOs love money.
Speak their language. Tell them what you will do for them. How many listener you will get for them. How you will increase their AQH.
More AQH = More Listeners = More Money!
Ask them questions: “How much would an extra 2,000 listeners per AQH be worth" to them?
Find out the advertising rates for your shift (or the shift you are applying for). Do the maths yourself and show them that by you coming in and performing that shift, you will increase their revenue by XXX amount of money.
Show them that you know what you are doing here. You’re not just some person who “wants to be on the radio”. You are a Professional. You have done your research. You have done your homework. You are telling them that you can increase the value of their product.
You can.
If at the end of this they still see you as having a ‘handy gig’, then I’ll ask you the same question again: Do you want to work long term for people who don’t value or respect what it is that you do?

Sure, you’ve got to eat and you’ve got to work. Do you quit immediately after a failed salary meeting?
No. Hang on, but start looking elsewhere.
Staying where you are indefinitely will bring you into a low paying comfort zone that is very difficult to get out of. Stay where you are until your search for better comes to an end. Then move, on your own terms, to the better place. It’s always out there.
Don’t take any rejection of your salary request personally. It’s not personal. It IS business. Be Businesslike.
You are a Business.

So, why does radio pay so badly?
Because we all, as a body of Professionals allow it to.
We’ve swallowed the line forever: “Anybody could do that”. Deep down we think, maybe they’re right.
I’m here to tell you that they’re not.
The presenter is the most important person in a radio station. Never forget that.
Sales are important, promotions too. Music is important, production too. They are all parts of the radio station. I agree.
But who puts it all together? Who presents and creates around these? Who brings these elements to life and relates them to the customer?
You do.
Without you, there is no complete end product.
No listener ever says, “Oh, I love the way the different parts of that promotion were thought out”. They talk about how the promotion felt to them. What it meant to them. They are talking about how YOU nurtured and developed that promotion.
Without the Presenter, a radio station has lots of elements…none of them are complete until you pull them all together in your own individual way.

Quick example:
I went in for a contract meeting in the past with my then ‘boss’.
All the usual lines came out – ‘Budget’, ‘Ratings’, ‘Projections’, ‘Tougher market place’ etc.
None of which I cared about, some of which I didn’t understand.
The problems they lay before me were, as far as I was concerned, their problems. Not mine.
My problem was getting what I wanted out of them. I had increased their ratings and brought in more money for them, now I felt I deserved my share.
After three meetings I got about 60% of the money I asked for. The rest I was able to make up in items that they could write off.
I got a monthly expenses allowance, a paid holiday each year, an allowance to go and buy a computer and computer software (for Show prep)! And a few other minor items including the introduction of a Bonus Scheme. These cost them nothing as they could write them off. For me, they were very nice ways of saving money.
I was able to do this because after years of not asking for what I wanted, I began asking. Once I started asking, I started receiving.
As simple as that.
Just ask.
All they can say is ‘No’. And they will say ‘No’. At first!
Keep asking.
Keep convincing. Have your facts. Have your figures. Be a Professional. It’s business.
Don’t believe the hype.
Don’t listen to the putdowns.
Once you listen to the putdowns, you can very easily believe them. Then you undervalue yourself and you will gratefully accept whatever they offer.

Imagine if we all decided today to become Professional. In every way. In our outlook, in our meetings with Programming, in the way we dressed at work, in the way we spoke at Presenter meetings…in every aspect of our day-to-day life in the radio station.
Do you think it would be noticed?
You bet it would.
The reason it would be noticed is because we don’t do it.
We’re the ‘Crazy DJs’.
You don’t take a clown seriously, and you definitely don’t pay them much.
A Professional?
You’ve got to take them seriously.

That includes paying them properly for their unique services.


To find out more about ‘Being a Professional Presenter’, contact:

Passionate About Radio.